Monday, April 29, 2013

Holy Motors

By Leos Carax


Shakespeare famously wrote, “All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players.”  Leo Carax’s exhilarating and beguiling Holy Motors dares to explore just how isolating this concept is.  By creating a futuristic dystopia in which the work of actors is to take on bizarre “assignments,” performing increasingly peculiar and dangerous acts for an undefined audience, Carax plumbs the troubling effects of the facades so many of us wear in futile attempts to find worth and purpose.  Carax’s film pulls out the rug, succinctly showcasing that such attempts will ultimately leave only disconnect and despair.  If we are all performing under the assumed identities we create for ourselves, and searching for entertainment by peering into the lives of others, how could we ever truly know ourselves?
                Rather than preaching these themes overtly, Carax’s film forces us to experience them, presenting a series of mysterious and striking vignettes designed to bring viewers further into a place of strange alienation – everything from family strife to sexuality is stripped down to be nearly unrecognizable due to its odd new context.  Indeed, acting out someone else’s life and never being able to find meaning or comfort in personal circumstance and identity would surely be torturous.  In the end, the film is an indictment of pretension – a call to stop this madness before it goes too far.  These themes are complex and messy, and could easily have been handled carelessly, but Carax stunningly searches his subject through the lens of skilled expressionism and refreshing playfulness, both communicating the dread of loneliness and the excitement, but ultimate emptiness, of new experiences.  For some, the film will be too obtuse, but for this reviewer, it was an atmospheric and thematic tour-de-force that was simultaneously thrilling, perplexing, and deeply affecting.

A very strong ***1/2 out of ****

                Deliberate in its disorientation, Holy Motors requires full engagement from its audience, a daring proposition for any film.  However, this intense engagement never feels like a chore, as Carax skillfully moves from genre to genre, scene to scene, building tension throughout.  Holy Motors not only tackles the isolating concept of living life through a façade as if on a stage, but on some level, the nature of art itself.  As we know not who the audience of each scene is, we begin to ask if there is, in fact, an audience.  Thus, we ask: is art still art without an audience? 
An increasingly weary Denis Lavant.
                Enough cannot be said of the brilliant lead performance of Denis Lavant, who portrays an actor playing about ten different parts throughout the day.  There is little dialogue, but he beautifully captures the weariness of this life, these “appointments”, in his eyes, his movements, and his stature, which become increasingly tired through the course of the film.  It is truly an incredible performance.  The film, in general, is one of the most ambitious films I saw from last year (right up there with The Master, my favorite film of 2012), but Carax deftly handles the subject matter and themes.  He creates gorgeous images, and I felt as though I was perhaps viewing something great.  I’m hesitant to do this, but I think I will in the spirit of the late Roger Ebert, who was always generous in his praise.

**** out of ****

I do not find a four-star review to be reaching here, as the film was a truly ambitious undertaking and achieved surreal heights few films have attained.  Indeed, I very nearly gave the film this rating.  In the end, however, I found some digressions a bit too confusing to be helpful or supportive of its larger themes.  In some ways, I think Carax wanted such detours to keep his viewers off-balance to further enhance the overall aesthetic and discomfort inherent to the ever-shifting landscape of the film.  Alas, I thought they did more harm than good, but even in these befuddling moments, the film was strongly compelling.  It was simply impossible to be anything but absorbed with the ride.
One of the oddest sequences in the film.
As you said, the film addresses the topic of art-as-performance as well, and does it adeptly.  I find it interesting that the first question viewers are likely to have is, “For whom are these actors performing?  Who is assigning them these appointments?”  Because there is no clear answer, the film uses these themes to point back to its larger themes of modern disconnect.  In one scene, our actor laments that he misses seeing his audience.  Art may indeed be art without an audience, but it is ultimately without meaning or purpose, for performers act with the impulse to connect with others through their work. 

               Certainly, Carax willfully made the film confusing, and it did enhance the overall aesthetic and feeling of discomfort.  This is especially important as we dig deeper into other ideas the film brings up, namely the loss of humanity and the significance of technology.  This is something I’m still trying to figure out as I analyze some of the final sequences of the film, which I won’t spoil, but which point to the problem of overvaluing technology as it continues to advance, perhaps leading to the death of true human connection altogether.  The film becomes increasingly tense and morbid in each sequence as the protagonist longs for something very human.

Laughter is the best medicine.
                Hearing you discuss the themes of technology in this film reiterates how superbly multi-faceted and insightful it is.  It is hard to imagine more relevant themes than these in today’s world, filled with many relationships existing solely through computer screens.  I’m sure there are more themes to discuss as well – it is a film that undoubtedly would reward repeat viewing.            
            Which is why, perhaps, those scenes that you thought did more harm than good will reveal themselves later in more conversations and with more viewings to be something entirely new and great.
Let’s talk about the great scene in which the lead reconnects with someone with whom he clearly once found meaning and purpose.  I loved the scene in the old department store.  I found it enthralling and poignant.  What did you think of it?

I also appreciated the scene in the old department store.  Just thinking about it makes me truly awed by how Carax plays with film tropes and genre (music plays a large role here) to both build up and deconstruct the emotional ties we have to our pasts.  The film dares to ask how we interpret our own lives, and whether the art we consume affects, in some unconscious way, how we perceive the world around us and tell our own stories.  It is an impressively nuanced sequence, for though it is one of the few, short glimpses into our actor’s deepest desires for human connection, it also leaves the possibility that this connection was, also, constructed from the fabric of pretention.

The motion-capture sequence.
               It is incredible that a film so delightfully absurd and surreal would speak so well to the heart of humanity.  There are other scenes in the film as well that were brilliant.  I quite enjoyed the (more sensual) sequence that nears the beginning of the film in which Oscar dons a suit to do some sort of green screen work.  It is somewhat of a visual marvel.

                Tell me more about what you thought of the motion-capture scene.  I thought it to be both disturbing and hypnotic – the act of motion-capturing was gorgeous, but the image created from it was grotesque.  Perhaps this was a comment on how even sexuality (or perhaps especially sexuality?) can become grotesque if performed impersonally, solely to fulfill the demands and social norms of the modern world.

                I completely agree.  I also found it disturbing and unsettling when the created images were revealed.  On the other hand, the actual sequence of capturing the motion was entrancing, specifically the action work done with weaponry.  When he was jumping and twirling and running, I was completely hypnotized by the light show.  Simply stunning.  We could go on and on.  There is so much to dissect here - a brilliant film with many layers of fascinating themes, and although it rewards repeat viewings, requires your attention, and is extremely surreal, the film is well-paced and never boring.  I would say that Holy Motors, in fact, has almost no pretension about it.  This is quite impressive, considering its wonderful reception at Cannes, the most prestigious film festival in the world.  It’s fun, exciting, and actually quite humorous.  If you are up for the challenge, it is not to be missed.
Two-as-One Rating: ***3/4 out of ****

P.S.  I would caution everyone who is interested in seeing this film that there is a fair bit of frontal male nudity and sexuality.  It is also fairly violent, and the violence is disturbing.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

David's Top Ten - #10 - Annie Hall (Allen, 1977)

We also have this poster in our home!

10.  Annie Hall - Woody Allen, 1977

            To many of my older, conservative suburban friends, Woody Allen is “that guy who married his daughter.”  To me, he is the thoughtful and eccentric filmmaker behind the finest romantic comedy ever produced (who happened to also marry his ex-wife's adopted daughter). 
            What I find most interesting about Annie Hall, along with his other films from the period, is that Allen seems to be writing from an innate self-awareness, both recognizing and stubbornly grasping his flaws.  This may make him loathsome to some in the real world, but it makes for great cinema.  Throughout the film, Allen’s dry wit and honesty both lambast and celebrate contemporary romantic entanglements.  He dares to argue that loneliness is an inherent symptom of his own urban-American culture, while also recognizing that romantic drama is a primary well from which many people draw meaning.  Impressively, he also shows the reserve to avoid convenient resolutions, providing no easy answers to this modern quandary.
            Yet, this alone is not what makes Annie Hall a great film.   Rather, this thematic base partnered with Allen's influential cinematic innovations elevate the material.  Not just a film with humble insight and honest frustrations, it is also a thrilling cinematic experience.  Whether in breaking the third wall, injecting animation, crosscutting amusing flashbacks, or cleverly utilizing voice-over, Allen never relies on the convenience of genre tropes or filmic shortcuts.  Its impact on cinema is widely felt in indie comedies even today, and will continue to be felt for many years to come.  Oh, and I should also mention its astute observations provide some of the funniest film moments to date.  A true masterwork.

Chelsea's Response:

            You showed me Annie Hall about six years ago, when we first started dating.  I’m so glad you did.  It’s a wonderful film that daringly explores the neuroses of relationships.  Its intensive meditation is summed up well in the following exchange from the film:
Diane Keaton's iconic style in the film.
Alvy (Allen): Here, you look like a very happy couple, um, are you?
Female street stranger: Yeah.
Alvy: Yeah? So, so, how do you account for it?
Female street stranger: Uh, I'm very shallow and empty and I have no ideas and nothing interesting to say.
Male street stranger: And I'm exactly the same way.
Alvy: I see. Wow. That's very interesting. So you've managed to work out something?

            It’s one of my favorite short scenes in all of cinema.  Throughout, Allen and Keaton both provide impressive comedic performances as well.  As you do, I love how this film playfully employs genre and the language of film, providing an early (and never improved) blueprint for the indie rom-coms of today.  (You can sense its huge impact on, for example, When Harry Met Sally or 500 Days of Summer, and many more.)  You summed it up well – a great film.

Monday, April 22, 2013

To the Wonder

By Terrence Malick

            “Know each other in the love that never changes.”  This is the appeal of Terrence Malick’s To the Wonder, spoken through the film’s moral center, a priest struggling to find the warmth of God’s love while living a many times lonely life of celibacy.  Before addressing what Malick means by this, and what he is doing with this film, it must first be stated that this is a distinctly Christian film; a Christ-centered and God-fearing ode to the source of love itself.  In his previous opus, The Tree of Life, Malick portrayed God in His glory as creator, both in things grandiose and in the work of recreating human hearts.  Here Malick is more thematically pointed, narrowing in on the definition of love.  The film contrasts God’s call to love selflessly with the world’s twisting of the word to represent a fleeting emotion easily altered by the innate human desire to be our own purveyors of truth and pleasure. 
            The romance that serves as the center of the film seems familiar, but not because it is common to film.  There are no familiar movie plot-points.  Rather, it is familiar because it is recognized in so many ordinary lives.  The ebbs and flows of romantic affections have impacted us all, whether personally or in the lives of those close to us.  This film mirrors the well-known path from the euphoric beginnings of a romance to the terrible lows.  Eventually, the film finds hope not in the changing people who feel love, but in the God who is love (1 John 4:8), never changes (Hebrews 13:8), and works in and through his church to love and nurture our hearts (Ephesians 4:15-16).  This is not, however, given as a pad solution.  Instead, faith is accurately portrayed as a long and weighty process fraught with doubt and the damaging effects of stubborn, selfish desire. 
Importantly, the film warns not only to avoid the extreme of trusting in mankind for ultimate fulfillment, but through the priest’s journey, also warns in trusting only theological knowledge or piety.  Hope is found between these extremes.  Malick argues we need both Christ and community to find true joy.  More fully and succinctly, Malick points to a need for the love of Christ in and through Christian community, portrayed here most pointedly in marriage.  This is the love that never changes – the love of Christ in us.
            With all this said, it must be stated that while Malick does deftly handle the complexities of the subject matter, the film is not perfect.  Sappy portrayals of idyllic new romance may have some viewers rolling their eyes, and the film’s central relationship is underdeveloped, leaving too many unanswered questions to emotionally engage viewers.  These flaws, however, are slight when compared to the film’s cinematic power and remarkable poeticism.  This is the work of a true artist - no one is putting more of himself into filmmaking today, and no one has a more unique and wondrous voice.

***½ out of ****

                I loved The Tree of Life.  Absolutely loved it.  It’s just outside my top ten.  The way Malick presents creation, nature, grace, sin, and redemption in that film is astonishing.  Thus, going into To the Wonder, my expectations were high.  Probably unfortunately, because although a lot of the film works beautifully, its problems were hard to look past.          

Bardem as a lonely priest
        I must say that I was excited every time the priest character, played expertly by Javier Bardem, was onscreen.  Malick’s meditations on grace and love in Christ through times of doubt were fabulous.  I loved the scenes that showcased the loneliness of the priest, and I loved hearing the whispered prayers of the priest, a man who clearly wrestles with his faith while remaining faithful.  I echo his struggles so frequently in my life, and I imagine Malick is putting a lot of his own doubts and struggles into these words. 
                However, I found every moment where the couple was onscreen to be messy and muddled.  The central characters, like you say, were not well-drawn, and I think because of that, I could not see any good contrasts or tie-ins between the two stories.  Most of the couple’s relationship is told through touch and dance, which is inventive, to be sure, but I felt as though all the jumping and leaping and dancing just couldn’t communicate romance fully.  I found myself wishing during all the scenes of the couple(s) that we could have more of the priest – not a good sign. 
                You say “no one is putting more of himself into filmmaking today”, and I think I agree (although I can think of a few directors who are also putting a lot of themselves into filmmaking), so I can give Malick a lot of grace and pass, but because the central couple takes up about ¾ of the film, it just didn’t end up coming together for me as a whole.

I’m wavering between **1/2 stars and *** stars.

                Let’s begin our discussion with the character of the priest.  I also found it distracting that the complexities of this character’s struggles are mined deeply while the romantic leads are used mostly as archetypes.  This aspect of the film is, indeed, a bit disjointed.  The story of the couple seems to rely solely on the camera to communicate emotion and skips details many would deem necessary.  While I find Malick’s camera (and the film’s beautiful score) to be effective at communicating emotion, I did have to take much of what I was given matter-of-factly.  Conversely, with the priest, both the camera and intimate insights into the convictions of the character build upon each other to a more affecting whole.  As a result, I also found myself wanting to spend more time with Malick’s priest.  In the end, this distracts from the mostly cerebral and theological connections Malick draws between the stories, as the marital conflict is overshadowed by the immense spiritual weight of the priest’s struggles.  Perhaps we are simply too familiar with marital conflict to find it as interesting as the priest’s turmoil without a further, deeper exploration of character impulses.
                That being said, I found the contrast between longings for filial love (the priest) and romantic love (the couple) to be compelling.  The film’s priest is asked to provide guidance to married couples and his community, all while being set apart by the collar he wears.  It is, perhaps, a subtle indictment of the inclination of the masses to view priests (or pastors, ministers, etc.) as above the need for human connection.  The film carefully reminds us that this is not true – we all need human connection.  God made us that way.  I saw parallels between the stories in that both the priest and the couple were seeking fulfillment in, respectively, the empty promises of piety and romance – they had “exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creation rather than the Creator” (Romans 1:25).  The film is, in the end, not a romance, but a film about true love.


Jane and Neil
            While I definitely see these themes, I simply don’t think they ultimately worked as well as they could have.
            Also, may I ask what the point of the Jane (McAdams) character was?  I thought their relationship was interesting, but I didn’t get an understanding of *SPOILER, if Malick films can be spoiled* why he would leave her to return to Marina (Kurylenko).  I understand that Malick tried to communicate that Marina and Neil had a passionate connection, but I didn’t buy it, and found the relationship between Neil and Jane more believable. 

            To be honest, in my whole process of writing about this film, McAdams didn’t enter my mind once.  Her part was, indeed, minor.  To me, her role was to emphasize further a motif of worldly desire for sexual and relational novelty.  Malick took pains to communicate that the male center of the romance was entirely selfish and not trustworthy – a good lover, but a bad savior.  By providing this portrait in two settings, Malick further emphasized these flaws.  However, this does, admittedly, make the fact that he *SPOILER* goes back to Marina, and even marries her, quite inconsistent.  The film could have definitely benefitted from more attention paid to this moment.  Perhaps it would have benefitted most by scratching the Jane plot altogether and replacing it with a less invested reminder of these traits.  The whole thing was a misstep, for sure.

Neil and Marina
            I think another problem is that Jane was, to me, a much more compelling personality than Marina.  She is openly vulnerable about her dreams, failures, and beliefs.  Marina just danced around, and Kurylenko’s performance was lacking.  I get that Malick was trying to portray that she was free spirited and fun, but it fell flat to me.  An entire characterization cannot be so simple, especially if she is the central character on which your whole premise hinges.
            Alas, I don’t think the discussion has helped me clarify my rating – I think I’m hopelessly stuck.  I want to give Malick a pass because his themes resonate with me, and I love how different and exciting he is as an artist, but I don’t know how much I can excuse how rushed this production feels.  So I’m just going to have to go with ** ¾ stars.

Two-as-One Rating: ***⅛

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Chelsea's Top Ten - #10 - Nights of Cabiria (Fellini, 1957)

We are beginning a series where we reveal our top ten films of all time.  We will each be presenting a top ten.  In each post, the person who has chosen the film will write a paragraph, and the other will write a short response.

10.  Nights of Cabiria – Federico Fellini, 1957

            Nights of Cabiria is the story of a prostitute in Rome, a woman who is tough, proud, and surprisingly naïve.  It follows her as she goes through her daily life being used, abused, and looked down upon.  It also follows has her as she searches for meaning in the church and gives of herself to others in ways that don’t include her body.  All the while she looks for love and refuses to give up hope that she can find redemption and true companionship.  The lead performance is breathtaking, and the film is absolutely devastating.  It is said to be a transitional film for Fellini, as he moved out of post-war realism and into a little more free and dreamlike way of telling stories.  This film is a perfect blend of both – it never shies away from the sadness that is Cabiria’s life, all the while being visually beautiful and experimental and artistic.  When I saw this film, I was absolutely wrecked by the portrayal of someone so trusting and yet so “experienced” who never allows life to get her down.  It is both depressing and uplifting, in some strange way.  I absolutely love this film.

David's Response:

            I love that you love this film, as it is also one of my favorites.  One of the very best tragedies I have seen, largely because of what you pointed out - there is a breathtaking sense of hope throughout, highlighted by the finale, which daringly juxtaposes an ultimate indignity with a reminder of how much joy life has to offer, if willing.  As with Fellini's other work from the period, he pleads with the audience to lighten up, while simultaneously recognizing and deeply empathizing with real pain and sadness.  Also of note is the lead performance (an all-timer, if I have ever seen one), which slowly and miraculously unearths a common humanity from the brash, immature veneer of an outcast streetwalker.


Monday, April 15, 2013

The Place Beyond the Pines

By Derek Cianfrance


            In moving away from the stark realism of his 2010 marital drama Blue Valentine and painting with much broader thematic and stylistic strokes, director Derek Cianfrance both succeeds greatly and overreaches wildly over the course of this film’s many times enthralling, but ultimately bloated 140-minute run-time.  While the film’s brooding style and dreamy pacing is hypnotic, it ultimately runs out of steam and loses its way.  The film is told in three acts, and it is unfortunate that the film’s weakest act (by far) is its finale, for finales many times leave the strongest impression.  While the film’s initial acts tie themes of paternal instinct, moral compromise, and a fear of losing control impressively between stories of two young fathers on very different paths, the film’s third act is a reach, and rather than flowing from the natural progression of the story, feels forced and superfluous.
            Something, however, must be said for the strengths of this film’s first two acts, for they are both cinematically and thematically captivating.  The film first tells, in its entirety, the story of a down-on-his-luck daredevil who resorts to bank robberies to contribute to his newly discovered son’s well-being, then moves to a story of a hard-working, but morally conflicted cop who crashes into this dare-devil’s life in the most tragic of circumstances.  At this pivotal point, the film leaves our initial protagonist behind and introduces a new center, while keeping its initial story in the periphery.  Rather than cross-cutting the stories, splitting the viewer’s attention and relying on the familiarity of crime-genre tropes, the film adds depth and meaning to these tropes by allotting devoted time to each character, allowing for a deeper recognition to the characters' personalities and flaws.  Much of the film’s contrivances are helped by this extra attention given to their internal struggles (as well as solid performances from the film’s leads).
            But then there is that third act.  Oh boy, the third act.  Jumping forward 15 years, the film tells the stories of these characters’ sons, trying desperately to make a statement about the far-reaching effects of decisions made in the heat of passion.  Yet, none of it works too well because the depth of character development that drives the first two acts is vacant here.  The sons are simply too broadly drawn to be interesting, and the film plods to a finish rather than with a crescendo.
            In the end, however, it is a worthwhile viewing due to its superb and tautly executed first acts, which are something to behold.  These successes, which could stand alone as a much better film, more than make up for its ambitions getting the best of it in its meandering third act.

A weak *** out of ****

                (Not-too) shockingly, I agree with almost everything you say, especially with regard to the brooding style and dreamy pace.  Additionally, like in his debut feature, Blue Valentine, Cianfrance gets two more excellent performances out of his lead actors: Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper.  Gosling is always excellent, and it’s no different here.  Cooper continues to amaze me following his incredible performance in Silver Linings Playbook.  (Seriously, how good were the lead actors in last year’s prestige pictures?!)  Also, I loved Cianfrance’s visual choices, utilizing striking angles and wonderful tracking shots throughout.  I also thought the score was fantastic and accentuated to the moody atmosphere.
                Like you, I also felt as though the third act was the least successful, although certainly not a full-on disaster.  The issue was that Cianfrance clearly communicated in the tone and mood of the film that all the story and character work was leading to something huge (this crescendo, as you call it), so the third act needed to have some sort of payoff.  However, I felt as though the AJ character was almost entirely superfluous, and the Jason character needed expansion in order for the conclusions and final scenes to be wholly satisfying.  His home life seemed mostly loving, and I didn’t understand where his depression was rooted.  Also, there were some interesting themes in the first two acts, specifically how money and power changes people, that were just kind of dropped.  I would have liked to see how that played out a little more.
                I also want to point out a few problems I noticed in the first two acts, and see what you thought of them.  The character transformations for both Gosling and Cooper are believable, but more breathing room to show those transformations probably would have been helpful; it sometimes felt like scenes were left in the cutting room that would have allowed the changes to seem more natural.  Additionally, while I thought both Rose Byrne and Eva Mendes did fine work, there were a few awkward scenes – like the pillowtalk between Byrne and Cooper.  Knowing more about their marriage would have been helpful.  
                The chapter-based storytelling was a daring move, and Cianfrance is clearly a very talented young director - it just didn’t all add up to a satisfying whole.  

(A tepid) *** out of ****

                You are absolutely correct about Gosling and Cooper, who both put in great performances, finding subtly in the midst of machismo.  I also couldn’t agree more about the character development of the third act – the film seems to expect viewers to accept the youthful dysfunctions of its characters with little effort to explain them.  This is a major issue because the dysfunction raises big questions in a viewer’s mind – how the heck did these kids end up this way?  This is distracting, even more so when compared to the careful character development in the first two acts of the film.  I spent far too much time wondering about what happened in the fifteen years between acts two and three than actually interacting with the conflict of the third act.
                I also appreciate you pointing out also how many of the (more interesting) themes were abandoned in this last act as well.  The film simply overreaches and addresses too many themes for its own good, eventually abandoning some of its most interesting themes in favor of its most melodramatic.  It is too bad the film didn’t simply roll credits at the end of the second act (and it could have without seeming off), for then it would have been far more impactful – both thematically and emotionally.

                I mostly agree with you about the need for more breathing room for the film’s leads, though I did see some merit to keeping viewers at a distance.  It seemed to me that, while this film was far from a full-on character study, it let us dwell with the personalities long enough for shifts to be both believable and surprising.  There is a moment when the dare-devil figure is far more violent than we first imagined he could be, and this is indeed an effective shock – mainly because we only knew him by way of his external temperament.  This worked for me, as the distance put between the viewer and protagonist was enough to make a statement about narrative cinema in general – the reality is that we can only know so much about people we have spent less than two hours with.  We operate on assumptions far too often, especially when informed by film tropes.
                The difference, to me, between the film’s first two acts and its third in terms of character development is that we come to be familiar with the mannerisms and personalities of the leads in the first two acts simply by spending uninterrupted time with them, but are never given the opportunity to know the young men in the third act, as they are presented as broadly drawn character types and are never given the opportunity to change or grow.  They are simply stuck being cogs in the film’s (over)plotting.


                I think you’re mostly right that there was enough development for the transformations, but it is still a little hard to wrap my mind around such a shift for both characters.  Both Cooper and Gosling have (very large) character shifts in the course of 40 minutes, and while I found the shifts believable, I couldn’t understand why they occurred.
                I don’t know if ending it after Act II would have worked either, mainly because the film builds during the first two acts and there is not a satisfying end point thematically.  I don’t know what would have worked.  Perhaps Cianfrance wrote himself into a corner in that way.  It was just, clearly, overly-ambitious.


                Two things.  One, I thought the reveal of moral compromise and career ambition before the jump 15 years forward would have been an effective point to end the film, as it nicely tied how one moral compromise can lead to another, and how one’s position can feed on the misfortunes of others.  I do admit that this would have left the theme of fathers and sons without a meaningful conclusion, but I would prefer that open-endedness to the contrived conclusion the film provided.  Two, I love you.


                Perhaps you have a point had the focus of the movie been mainly on ambition and power, but it seemed to be more about fathers and sons.  I don’t know where I would have ended it.  I did find the climactic scene in the third act pretty well done, relative to the rest of the third act.  It brought all the film’s main themes back to center stage, even if it did this through extreme circumstances.  In general, I think we can agree that the film is over-ambitious, but stunning in moments, all the same.

I love you, too.

Two-as-One Rating: *** out of ****

P.S. This was a very difficult film to do as our very first review conversation, as it is an easily spoiled film.  We both do think it's worth seeing.